Exploring pollinator conservation as an essential skill

by Michel Wiman

April 2019

We at IAE feel that science education and the opportunity to steward our planet’s natural resources should be available to all. Recently, I was invited to give a workshop for the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Program out of Linn-Benton Community College in Albany, Oregon. The goal of the program is to enable individuals to make the transition from public assistance to self-sufficiency.

After a brief overview of IAE's programs and career-building efforts in ecology, and sharing a quick review of my career as a woman in science (nearly all of the 25 students are women), I presented a native pollinator home-making workshop. Instructor Terese Jones provided pre-cut six-inch-deep wood blocks, along with fence boards for roofs and for hanging the block. Homes can be placed around homes, neighborhoods and natural areas to provide nesting sites for some of Oregon's estimated 500 native bee species. My goal was to share the essential skills of protecting our planet's pollinator services, but the workshop had students diving into hands-on drilling and construction of these pollinator homes. Students felt empowered using the tools to create pollinator homes, and discussed entrepreneurial ideas using all of these (mostly new) skills.

Two common types of solitary, tunnel-nesting bees are mason bees (Osmia species) and leafcutter bees (Megachile species), found in North America. Researchers find that native bees can be 2-3 times more effective at pollinating fruits and vegetables than nonnative honeybees. After discussing how native pollinators are different from honeybees, and what some Oregon pollinators need for building shelter and reproducing, the group set up stations for bee home construction. Two students used a drill press to drill the 5-inch deep holes required by most native pollinators. At another station, students drilled holes between 3/32" and 3/8" to accommodate different sized native bees. A final station had paints and markers to decorate the pollinator homes. Solitary bees rarely sting, and they do not produce honey or swarm. Students made pollinator homes for themselves, as gifts, and for the community; there will be pollinator homes placed soon at Jackson Street Youth Center homes in Corvallis and Albany.

This group of students is searching for new passions and successes in their careers. One student was already an amateur beekeeper and gardener, and was thinking of a business venture raising queen honeybees. IAE’s workshop was a unique addition to the course's guest speaker lineup; other community presenters included local mortgage broker Liz Irish, Michelle Marie from OSU's School of Business, Danielle Warner from Jackson Street Youth Center, and Rebecka Weinsteiger from Willamette Neighborhood Housing. We hope that we helped the students in this program understand the importance of native pollinators, and appreciate the sense of creativity, power and accomplishment that a drill, hammer and nails can provide.

IAE will continue to offer Pollinator Workshops in our community - please sign up for our E-Newsletter or visit our Facebook page for updates or email us if you are interested in scheduling a workshop.

Roofs provide rain protection for the homes

Students creating roofs for pollinator homes

Students enjoyed using power tools to create pollinator homes

Some homes included hollow teasel stems that some native bees will use to make homes

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